Attending Your First 12 Step Meeting
Deciding you are ready to attend your first 12-step meeting, of alcoholics anonymous or narcotics anonymous, is a commendable action but often comes with some healthy levels of anxiety as you embark on a new environment. There is nothing to worry about when you attend a 12-step meeting as you will be surrounded by other individuals who have shared the same struggles with addiction as you have.
The 12-step meeting will most likely be held within a church, building attached to a church, or within a community center. When you walk in, there will be chairs set up, coffee prepared, and other individuals that are coming into the meeting. Commonly, there will be someone greeting individuals coming into the meeting and you will come into the room to find yourself a seat. The room will fill up with other individuals and the meeting will begin.
What are 12 Step Meetings?
12-step meetings are an opportunity for other alcoholics or drug addicts to gather together to provide support to one another through facilitated meetings. During the meeting, individuals will have the opportunity to share their own personal stories of drug or alcohol addiction including where their addiction began, the consequences that occurred due to their substance abuse, and how the program alcoholics anonymous or narcotics anonymous has supported them to obtain addiction recovery. Individuals are invited to share their stories but have the right to decline to share and opt to listen to other individuals’ shares.
Within the 12-step meetings, there are individuals who are willing to be sponsors to new members. A sponsor supports other alcoholics or drug addicts in going through the 12 steps to understand the nature of addiction while healing from the past to create a positive future in addiction recovery.
Common Myths About 12 Step Meetings
There are common myths that are often said about 12 step meetings including the following:
- AA or NA is a cult
- You have to introduce yourself as an alcoholic or drug addict
- You are required to share your secrets regarding your drug or alcohol addiction
- All participants have to engage in a group hug at the end
- You are required to pray or believe in religion
- You will run into someone you know
How Do 12 Step Meetings Work?
Each meeting is facilitated by a chairperson who will open the meeting with the AA preamble and opening with the serenity prayer. Participants are not required to say the serenity prayer if they are not comfortable doing so. After that, participants may read from various alcoholics anonymous or narcotics anonymous literature such as the twelve steps and twelve traditions, the alcoholics anonymous book also known as the “Big Book”, or the Narcotics anonymous book to read specific sections to begin the meeting.
Once the literature has been read, the chairperson will inquire if there are any newcomers to the meeting. You have the option to identify yourself as a newcomer if you wish. The goal of identifying the newcomer is to provide you with a number of other individuals in the program to begin building your recovery community and help you begin to meet others in the recovery community. After the newcomers identify themselves, the chairperson will begin the meeting and move into the sharing portion of the meeting.
Types of 12 Step Meetings
Individuals can choose from Alcoholics Anonymous which focuses on supporting individuals who have a desire to quit drinking or a narcotics anonymous meeting that is focused on supporting individuals who expressed a desire to quit their use of substances including illicit drugs or prescription drugs.
Meetings can be held in the following formats:
Open meetings – These meetings are for anyone with a desire to quit drinking, want to learn more about 12 step meetings, or for nonalcoholics or nonaddicts that wish to attend and support others
Closed meetings- These meetings are specific to those who have a desire to quit their use of alcohol or drugs
Speaker meetings– Participants are invited to attend the meeting and hear the story of another person in the recovery community who has gone through the 12 steps and is living a life in addiction recovery. The goal is to provide hope and inspiration to others that achieving and maintaining sobriety is possible.
Step study meetings- These meetings support participants in sharing a specific step. The hope is that those willing to share will discuss their experiences of strength and hope as they worked through the specific step
How Long Do 12 Step Meetings Last?
12-step meetings are typically an hour-long, however, there are meetings that are between 1-2 hours long. Every day there are multiple meetings held throughout the day and evening in various locations across your city or town. To find a meeting to attend in your hometown, there are apps for alcoholics anonymous and narcotics anonymous that will provide a list of the various meetings held each day.
Why 12 Step Meetings are Important
12-step meetings provide individuals with a community of support from other individuals who understand the true nature of addiction. Participants are able to learn from one another’s stories and begin to feel like their experience with addiction is not uncommon. This helps to remove the stigma of addiction as you begin to see that addiction impacts the lives of many from any walks of life. 12-step meetings provide each person with an opportunity to connect with one another and leave the meeting feeling supported and inspired to remain on the road to recovery.